A new scale for green

The LEEDv4 system for rating sustainable construction launches in Philadelphia this week.

Posted: November 19, 2013

The U.S. Green Building Council is raising the bar for sustainable construction with the launch of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design version 4 (LEEDv4) rating system at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo this week at the Convention Center.

"The market is capable of doing a lot more than it does," said Scot Horst, a Green Building Council senior vice president who oversees LEED.

The new system streamlines the arduous LEED certification process, updates previously established guidelines to match more recent building codes, offers a new breakdown of standards by sector, and encourages collaboration among the architects, builders, and others involved in the construction and design process.

It's easier to develop a workable green project when building professionals work together from its inception, Horst said.

LEEDv4 also calls for more transparency in materials composition, which Horst compared to nutrition labels on groceries. Promoting disclosure lets consumers educate themselves on what they want in their products, he said.

"Right now, no one can make decisions about what is bad for them because we don't know what is in our buildings," said Horst, who added that the council, instead of listing what should be in building materials, wanted the market to determine the success of certain products.

But meeting the latest criteria is difficult, especially while LEEDv4 is still in its infancy.

As part of a pilot program, Mount Laurel-based MaGrann Associates worked with Montclair-based RPM Development in the construction of GG Green, an affordable-housing and retail property in Woodbury that awaits a decision on its LEEDv4 Platinum rating, said Jon Jensen, a technical consultant with MaGrann.

Obtaining product-composition details was a challenge because it is not an industry standard, Jensen said: "Everybody looks at you like you are crazy."

But he likened it to past changes in the construction world - like listing the amount of recycled content - that initially faced skepticism before becoming the norm.

Many industry associations opt to use other green-design criteria, such as the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard developed by the National Association of Home Builders and the International Code Council.

But, Horst said, as a voluntary rating system, LEEDv4 gives builders and developers an opportunity to take extra steps to differentiate themselves from competitors.

"The goal is to allow people to distinguish themselves as leaders," he said.

Setting these standards encourages others to build with green criteria in mind, Jensen said, and "makes it much clearer what it takes for builders and developers to set themselves apart."

Projects can obtain LEED 2009 certification until June 1, 2015, when LEEDv4 becomes the only rating system available.


aburdo@phillynews.com

215-854-2980 @newsburd

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